Tamara Ravalin will retire Aug. 31 after nearly 40 years in education and a tumultuous two years leading Visalia Unified through the COVID-19 pandemic
VISALIA – The woman who guided Tulare County’s largest school district through its most challenging years is now ready for retirement.
On May 21, Visalia Unified Superintendent Tamara Ravalin announced her plans to retire on Aug. 31, 2021 after 40 years in education. She said she was grateful and honored for the time with Visalia Unified School District (VUSD) and spent much of the pandemic reflecting on her family, her faith and her health.
“Over the last few months, I have developed some health challenges, which can be remedied with appropriate medical care and physical therapy,” Ravalin said. “My decision to retire from full-time employment will allow me to take care of myself and my family.”
Ravalin joined Visalia Unified in August 2013 where served as assistant superintendent of human resources. Prior to her employment with VUSD, she was dean of Student Services at College of the Sequoias and assistant superintendent of Educational Services for Kings County Office of Education. Ravalin will stay through the start of the next school year to provide a smooth transition for the next superintendent.
“The school board would like to wish Dr. Ravalin well in her retirement and appreciate her service and dedication to our school district,” VUSD Board President Juan Guerrero said.
Ravalin was thrust into the spotlight two years ago when she was named acting superintendent by the board a week after her predecessor, Dr. Todd Oto, was unceremoniously dismissed by the board.
Oto had been under intense scrutiny for the previous 18 months for the district’s implementation of the Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) system to manage student behaviors in the classroom. Teachers complained that the system did not offer enough consequences for students who were unruly in the classroom and on campus, and in some instances where they threatened the safety of teachers and other students. Oto was also criticized for his handling of a complaint filed by the ACLU Foundation of Northern California with the Department of Education on behalf of a group of black students who claimed the district ignored bigotry and racial hostility on campuses. There was also the district’s promotion of Measure A, a $105 million school bond, as a way of building a fifth comprehensive high school complete with a stadium, pool and theater. After the bond’s narrow passage, the board said the new high school was too expensive and relied on a statewide school construction bond which failed less than a year later.
Ravalin stepped in and provided a stabilizing influence as several key members of the district office left in the wake of Oto’s departure. Shortly after being named superintendent with a two-and-a-half year contract, Ravalin had the unenviable task of guiding the district through the pandemic. Less than a year into running Tulare County’s largest school district, Ravalin was forced to send students and teachers home and figure out an equitable way to instruct students, many of whom did not have access to desktop or laptop computers or the internet at home. Since that time, Ravalin and the school board have been the targets of parents frustrated by public health orders issued by the state and interpreted by the county.
“The last two years have brought enormous opportunities and challenges. Throughout this time, we have come together as a district to serve our students, families, and each other in ways we never thought possible,” Ravalin said. “I am constantly in awe of the way our team has moved forward to open doors for our students and their willingness to examine practices in order to remove barriers to student success, both academically and socially.”
Board President Juan Guerrero thanked Ravalin for steering the district through the ever-changing rules for schools during a staggered reopening of grade levels, canceled and condensed high school sports seasons and split scheduling to accommodate social distancing.
“I would like to thank Dr. Tamara Ravalín for navigating Visalia Unified School District during these unprecedented times,” Guerrero said. “Her leadership, attention to detail, and integrity have been an asset to the Board of Education, staff, students, and the school community.”